The Lily Cafe is thrilled to welcome Lucia from Lucia’s Fiction, where she shares her writing journey, including how she signed with a literary agent, and offers incredible advice and tips for writers and authors. Check her out at Lucia’s Fiction and, if you’re working on querying agents, she’s offering to critique it (more details at the end of this post).
Receiving editorial notes from a beta-reader, critique partner, or an editor can trigger an array of emotions from we mere mortals. If the feedback says your manuscript is utterly flawless, you’re going to be smiling all day and probably moonwalking at odd places. But being honest? Critiques are hardly ever all-positive. Which means that there will be paragraphs about slow pacing, one-dimensional characters, weak motives, and so on.
Typically, these are the feedbacks that trigger the strongest emotions. With each flip of a page or click of your mouse, you’ll feel twinges in your chest and maybe even tears prickling your eyes. There might be embarrassment too because ‘gosh, why hadn’t I thought about that?’. And oftentimes, anger follows right after. And so you consider ripping the letter to shreds because ‘they’re wrong! They can’t possibly know what they’re saying!’
If you’ve felt this way after reading editorial notes, don’t worry, my friend. No need to cringe or hide behind your hair with guilt. It’s completely normal. No one takes critiques easily. Our books are our babies after all! What we have to learn, is how to manage these emotions better and accept critiques rather than trash them instantly. So when you get an editorial note next time, approach it with these steps:
1. Brace Yourself
First thing first: when that message titled ‘editorial notes‘ comes in, brace yourself. Tell yourself that when you forwarded your book to your reviewer, you knew it wasn’t perfect. You wanted an objective eye to help you learn what needed repair and that is what they have done. Expecting criticism makes it much easier to swallow!
2. Read Through
Now that you’re braced—or as braced as you can be—read through the editorial notes. Chances are that you’ll see points that you wholeheartedly agree with and those that you
feel are rubbish don’t quite agree with. This is where your heart plummets and your emotional pot starts stirring.
3. Step Away From Feedback
Close the document before you erupt! Don’t delete the email and block the reviewer forever. Don’t shoot off a message telling them how dumb and clueless they are, or how they know nothing about writing. Rather take a few days—or however long you need—to simmer down.
If the critique is a major one e.g. your reviewer thinks an entire subplot should be trashed, the trope should be swapped, a character should never have made it into the story, you might need about three days to simmer down. And if it’s something minor, such as the heroine should wear her hair up to seem more ladylike rather than down, hours to a day could be all you need to regain your calm. Either way, just step back from the critique until you feel settled enough to reopen it or to contact your reviewer without breathing fire.
4. Ruminate On Feedback With A Keen Eye And An Open Mind
Now that you are calm(er), go through the notes with a pen and ask yourself if each feedback will truly truly improve your story. Mentally rework your manuscript with these pieces of advice and see how/if they fit. For instance, if the feedback says that in your YA novel, your teenager’s voice sounds too adult, this could be a serious cause for concern and isn’t feedback to be ignored. If you do, agents might think the same and reject your manuscript because of it. So you want to look at this from an objective standpoint and decide the best method to fix it.
On the flips side, if the feedback says that you should change your novel’s trope from ‘strong, independent woman’ to ‘rags to riches’ solely because it is what is trending, if you aren’t writing to follow trends, you might want to toss this advice out the window.
In the end? It’s your story. And if you aren’t staying true to your vision for it, then you’ll be doing yourself a disservice. Still, don’t use this as a shield against feedback. Always keep an open mind and remember that being the writer could easily make you biased. The essence of a reviewer is to help you see the story from an objective standpoint.
6. Ask What You Don’t Understand
Always ask questions. Don’t get a feedback and implement it without having a conversation with your reviewer. A reviewer must explain why they feel certain points should be removed or included or tweaked. And quite often, there’ll be critiques that won’t make sense to you until your reviewer breaks it down from their point of view. Only with complete understanding can you do a great job with your edits!
7. Get To Work
Now that you’ve sifted through the feedback, picked out what is vital to your book, and have a clear understanding on how to implement the changes, it’s time to get to work. Do. Not. Procrastinate. Editing can be daunting, yes. But the longer you put it off the more reluctant you’ll be to return and the more you’ll lose connection with that story. So woman/man up and start repairing!
Critiques and editorial notes can be very tough pills to swallow. However, with these tips above, you can handle them better!
Query Critiques Package
To assist querying writers this December, I’ll be offering critiques on Lucia’s Fiction for my December Special. (https://luciasfiction.wordpress.com/)
Interested? Great! Please send the following to @ nobigurl.icloud.com:
1. Your Query Letter
2. Your First Five Pages in word document (double spaced!)
3. A small note on the critique style you want. General? Or detailed with track changes?
Submissions are open until the 10th of December. And I will be critiquing the first 3 (perhaps more) queries I receive. So hurry up and submit those queries! I would love to do more but December is a super busy time so watch this space as I might do another Query Critique Package in January!
If you’re one of the first three to submit and I’ll be critiquing your query, you’ll get a confirmation email from me shortly after I receive it! Along with my feedback will also be a link to my list of fast responding literary agents!
Thank you so much, Lucia! What a fantastic thing you’re offering to writers!
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